July 20, 2001
Ahamefula Ogbu, Lillian Okenwa & Julcit Sanda, This Day
The Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Commission of inquiry probing human rights violations in the country was treated yesterday to amazing details of how the General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime allegedly pillaged the economy, siphoning several billions in both local and foreign currencies, including $40 million contributed by multinational companies for the late General Sani Abacha's self-succession bid.
Testifying before the Commission, former head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brigadier-General Ibrahim Sabo (rtd.) alleged that the primary aim of seizing power by military men was to steal money. He said that immediate past Head of State, "General Abubakar manifested high propensity of looking for money and grumbled loudly any time he did not get his wish."
He claimed that on the first adjourned date of the petition, he had come with two Ghana-must-go bags full of documents to prove his assertions but that when it became clear to him that Abdulsalami may not appear before the panel, "I pruned it down to what I have here but I have the intention of taking them before Justice Akanbi Commission to conclude it there. This issue must not be allowed to go just like that".
"Officers had been complaining that Abacha was not giving them welfare and that the transition was coming to an end and asked if it was how they were going to end. Abdulsalami Abubakar at a time asked Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim for N1 million which he said he needed urgently and he (Ibrahim) said he hadn't the money. When he took over as Head of State, he retired Ibrahim. He (Ibrahim) is still alive to confirm or deny that.
"Abubakar's administration going by records shows that he took over power to get money. I stumbled on documents that some people were sharing $40 million contributed by multi-nationals for late C-in-C's self-succession. I gave the tape to Sarki Muktar to help give it to Abdulsalami Abubakar. Three days after, I was retired. That money has not been handed over to the Obasanjo administration, so he should find out what happened to the money.
"Engineer Buba Galadima of the National Maritime Authority was asked by Abdulsalami Abubakar to provide N5 billion through Hope Uzodinma. Galadima refused, what followed was that he was arrested by a lorry load of soldiers, taken to an unknown destination. He was later returned and asked to provide the money but he still insisted that it was above his limit. He insisted that the C-in-C should write a memo to that effect but they refused. He said he would rather they fired him and they did. The money was to have been shared thus: N 1.35 billion to the Minister, N265 million to Hope Uzodimma and the rest converted into dollars which came to $18 million for Abdulsalami Abubakar.
"There was this issue of printing of currencies in the 100, 200 and 500 naira denominations. Like (Major Hamza) Mustapha said, that was where they set a bobby trap for the present regime and I have 13 documents to support this information. The preamble is that when Abacha was alive, the idea was muted. J. S. Moore, Thomas De la Rue of London and Bundus of Germany were contacted for the contract. They quoted $30 per N1,000 and General Abacha said it was costly and offered them $10 per N1000. It was not done.
"When Abdulsalami took over, he agreed to print the currency at a higher rate of $45 per N1000 with the removal of the Optimal Ink Mark and other security marks. G and B was given this contract for $45. My lord, this company is noted for tax evasion. They evaded tax in Germany up to the tune of 2 million DM. You remember that I gave evidence of Euthicon where Abubakar's friend was involved in tax evasion in Nigeria and here he is giving this contract to a company equally involved in tax evasion ", he said.
Sabo said that with the printing and importation of currencies into the country, with the hindsight of how the contracts were given out without requisite security marks, people should know where to look for the development.
He spoke of financial deals the regime made with the peace keeping troops to West African countries. The deals include supplying the peace keepers with adulterated fuel which Sabo said General Victor Malu complained about.
Sabo said the peace keepers were also supplied oil mixed with water at $45 just as motor cycle crash helmets were supplied in place of ballistic helmets which caused great casualties among Nigerian soldiers which figure he put at over 700.
"Provisional Ruling Council members were to be given parting gift of $1million during the Abdulsalami regime but the figure was doctored to $500,000. Later, it was only $50,000 that was given to each of them. What happened to the remaining $450,000 multiplied by the number of PRC members? I knew this by asking the members that, 'Sir please give me something from the $500,000 parting gift you were given and they will say it was only $50,000 they received'.
"When Abacha died, our foreign reserve was $9.7 billion but when Abdulsalami came he said it was $7.17 billion. He depleted it as if there is no tomorrow. The Eagle Square was constantly maintained and there was no need for the huge amount quoted to renovate it for handing over ceremonies. A construction firm quoted for it at N230 million which was rejected and offered to another company for N2.3 billion.
"Gilmore was a company used to siphon N59 million with which a house was bought in Ascot for oe5 million (pounds sterling) and another oe1 million used to renovate it", he revealed.
On defence contracts, Sabo said that a contract of 66 million DM was approved for maintenance of Alpha jets but when Abdulsalami came to power, he raised another memo for $44,275,000 for the same maintenance, three times the originally projected value, adding: "I wanted him to be here to say if this is his signature." He tendered some documents to support his revelation.
"There was yet another memo dated March 17, 1999 from the office of the Chief of General Staff requesting purchase of patrol boats for $45 million and amphibious planes for $21, 747,000; 5,000 raincoats for $14.5 million at $2,900 each whereas it was costing $45 each. These were done without tenders. Apart from supplying food at bloated prices, he said that Naval vessels were used to transport food stuffs to ECOMOG soldiers but reported as merchant vessels and money taken for it," Sabo further alleged.
Sabo equally accused Abdulsalami of arm twisting civil servants. The former DMI boss referred to the case of Engineer Ibrahim Ali, Managing Director of Nigeria Ports Authority, who was allegedly invited by the former Head of State to update request for his programme and bring same for approval which the man did.
"Abdulsalami said he (Ali) should see him in his house and former Secretary to the Government, Alhaji Gidado Idris was there. When Ali presented his request, Abdulsalami approved all and the man happily left. Immediately, he instructed Gidado to fire him and replace him with another person. Gidado protested but was told that it was not for debate and that if he refused to do it, another person will be instructed to do the job.
"You see, I took time to enumerate all these to show that Abubakar's taste for money stalled the release of Abiola. If he was released, he would have been asking for his mandate and the atmosphere would not have been conducive for looting. Make Abubakar appear to explain his deflation of the economy. Obasanjo is not the cause of the bad economy but the bobby trap of the past regime. Let people say that I am courting favour of the regime, let it be", Sabo said.
Asked by his counsel, Mr. Oumar Shittien, if there were other avenues used to steal the country's money by its leaders, he answered in the affirmative, citing the N21.27 billion from Petroleum Trust Fund for the renovation of barracks, adding, "if you look around, you will see whether the renovation in the barracks were well done; you cannot say the money was well utilised for that purpose".
He also spoke of the use of provision of ammenities in the Bakassi Peninsula where he said a project for provision of water valued at N80 million was re-awarded for $20 million out of which $10 million was disbursed. He asked for what happened to the remaining sum.
"There was also this issue before I was retired. In fact, if we cannot keep our soldiers well, we should not use them to siphon money. Some military weapons were imported into the country at a time in a manner inconsistent with the practice. Usually, when arms are imported, the three services and security outfits will be at the point of disembarkation where our porters will carry it.
"But this one, information came to us that an aircraft had landed with military hardware. I sent my boys to the point and arrested them. The Israeli who came with the consignment confided in us that the ballistic helmets were not the real ones but were in fact, motorcycle helmets painted in army colour. At a stage of our investigation, we were asked to stop.
"When we were in detention, I learnt we lost over 700 soldiers. This Commission should investigate the use of those motorcycle helmets whether they have anything to do with the high casualty rate", he said.
On loss of documents needed to further clarify the gravity of what some military officers did to the nation, he said that while he was detained at State Security Service safe house at Life Camp, Abuja, there was an instruction to kill him and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha but that somehow the instruction was not carried out. On one of the days, he said that he saw smoke in the afternoon and asked what was happening and was told that they were burning some documents and tapes.
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